Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
COVID-19 Relief Bill Contains Dalai Lama Guidelines
The 5,593-page government funding bill that includes the COVID-19 stimulus contains some surprising legislation pertaining to the future of Tibetan Buddhism. According to Newsweek, Section 342 of the new COVID bill outlines the US government’s approach to the reincarnation and succession of the next Dalai Lama. “Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in many countries including Bhutan, India, Mongolia, Nepal, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, and the United States,” the bill states. “[Y]et the…People’s Republic of China has repeatedly insisted on its role in managing the selection of Tibet’s next spiritual leader…through actions such as those described in [the 2007] ‘Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas.’” The section describes how China has interfered in the succession process of reincarnated Tibetan lamas, even mentioning the then 6-year-old Panchen Lama who was detained by Chinese authorities in 1995. It also directs the Secretary of State to establish a US consulate in Tibet, which would likely be seen as a direct challenge to China, and states that the US government can implement sanctions against Chinese officials who interfere in the Dalai Lama’s succession process. Newsweek reached out to press representatives for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
It is unclear whether the terms of Section 342 are identical to the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA), which was lobbied by members of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan Government in Exile, and passed in the US Senate, according to the CTA. TPSA formally acknowledges the CTA as the legitimate institution representing the aspirations of the Tibetan diaspora and Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay as President of the CTA.
Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg Team Up for Online Event
The current Dalai Lama plans to team up with climate activist Greta Thunberg for an online event early next year. His Holiness will join Thunberg and leading scientists for a conversation on “The Crisis of Climate Feedback Loops,” according to the CTA. Organized by the Mind & Life Institute, the free event will be streamed in Tibetan, English, Chinese, and other languages on the official websites and Facebook pages of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and will start at 9:00 am IST on January 10, 2021 (10:30 pm EST, January 9).
“Black and Buddhist” Featured on NBC News
The new anthology Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom from Shambhala Publications was featured in the NBCBLK section of NBC News. The idea for the book began at a gathering for Black Buddhist teachers at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City before the murder of George Floyd, but the book’s introduction is written in his honor. Pamela Ayo Yetunde, the anthology’s co-editor, said the book’s intended audience is African Americans curious about Buddhism, white Buddhists who want to know “how the teachings land on African Americans,” and religious scholars who can use the included essays to better understand Buddhism as a whole. Contributors include Lama Rod Owens, Sebene Selassie, Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips, and Ruth King.
30-Foot Headless Statue Uncovered in Southwest China
A 30-foot headless statue was recently uncovered in a residential complex in southwest China, CNN Style reported. According to a natural survey of cultural relics, the statue is believed to have been built during China’s Republican era (1912-1949), but many residents who have lived nearby for decades said they were unaware of its existence. It was discovered when thick layers of foliage obscuring the site were removed during recent renovations to the residential complex. The statue depicts a figure seated with its forearms resting in its lap and holding what appears to be a round stone. While photos of the statue are going viral on Chinese social media, where people are referring to it as “the Buddha,” experts say that the statue is probably not of Buddhist origin and is likely related to a folk religion.
Thank you for reading this week’s Buddha Buzz! See you in 2021.